Learning To Stay

Jeremy Madden, a columnist from The Aspen Daily News, wrote an interesting article today about our mutual home town, entitled, Dear Mother Earth: I give up.

On April 10, 2008, the temperatures are not supposed to rise above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It is mid afternoon and as I gaze outside into the mountain landscape, all I see is white, sprinkled with some occasional brown (not from the earth, mind you, but from the trees rooted there, which are supposed to be turning green by now). The sky is white, the ground is white-even my patio with an abandoned looking Weber grill-is white. My faithful and true thermometer, having survived the most brutal winter in my six year history here, threatens to finally give way as the north wind shakes it to the core continuing to persuade the mercury in a southern direction.

Are you flipping kidding me? Here is Jeremy's take on this bizarre weather weirdness: "In the midst of global warming hysteria that is spreading across the globe, Mother Earth put the smack-down on the northern hemisphere this past winter. She beat us and buried us with snowstorm after snowstorm. She frosted and froze us with freezing temperatures, and she bitch-slapped us with blizzard after blizzard."

Trust me, it is not easy to 'stay' in this alpine ice - land while yearning for even the remotest semblance of spring-especially following the relentlessly persistent winter "smack-down" described above. Along with a multitude of others, I long for the luxury of sparkly sun on my face and green grass squishing between my toes. Many locals are making plans to migrate anywhere south of here with the promise of blue skies and yellow sun - the kind that isn't persistently hazed over by moisture. And as I listen to the hum of excitement around these escape enthusiasts, I wonder why in God's name I am not among them. What is it that is making me "stick it out" here in this Colorado version of the North Pole?

What I repeatedly continue to discover across all areas of my life (however weary the process may be from time to time) is that when we experience discomfort of any kind, the temptation is to reach out to whatever it is we think will remove the discomfort - even for a moment. Naturally, when our noses are cold we immediately want warmth - and warmth is what we go for. Now if we happen to be climbing Everest and that cold nose turns into possible frost bite, our survival instincts will definitely kick in. We will do whatever it takes to bring ourselves to a state of relief. Of course, these automatic thoughts are directly linked to our drive to stay alive. And while 'normal' and appropriate, as in the case of wanting to avoid the atrophy of a vitally important body part, it is quite possible that these 'survival thoughts' (if you are human) may leak into other areas of your existence. For example, when we are lonely, our hearts ache to be with the ones, whom we believe will relieve our loneliness. Sometimes this loneliness can create profound feelings of despair. It can even take us to places which feel inconsolable. Naturally, we are then tempted to place even more emphasis on the person (place or thing) whom we believe holds the key for dispelling these frightful emotions.

The late Henri Nouwen, beloved philosopher and priest, writes in The Inner Voice of Love, "..it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one, who could temporarily take it away. It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God's healing....God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need."

And so is it possible that when we can remember to stay, even for a nanosecond longer than we thought we could endure, that we are strengthening our connection to the Divine, and releasing attachments and dependencies on external events over which we ultimately have no control? After all, we can't even predict our own lives. And so how can we possibly know what someone else is going to do?

And as for predicting the weather? Well, the meteorologist in this neck of the woods has certainly missed the mark again. Contrary to what was forecast for later today (clearing skies) what I am currently witnessing, is a blazing blizzard (unless I am delusional, which is entirely possible at this point). Unreal. I'm with you Jeremy, "Show mercy...my carbon footprints are wet and cold. Come and warm my part of the globe."

We will see what comes of my decision to endure the endless winter without migrating for Mexico. Meanwhile, for those of you who do head south, please send me a postcard, won't you (PO 7921, Aspen, CO81612)?

PS - It is now April 13, 2008. The sun has been shining for two days. Hallelujah! For now, anyway, I am glad I stayed. :)

Loving you,

Luann